Across Tel Aviv, the shirtless men are out, the rainbow flags are fluttering, and all those rippled, hairless abs are shimmering in the sweltering sun.
It’s Pride Week, and this fair, fun-loving city is undressed for success.
But in a town that in 2011 was named the world’s best gay destination by American Airlines and GayCities.com, a city where it’s more rare to see Haredim than same-sex couples walking down the street and where openness and inclusivity is the norm, every week can feel like Pride Week.
So what are the most gay things about this gay-loving town? Read on, party lovers.
10. Outdoor gyms
Didn’t get enough eye candy strolling down Rothschild Boulevard or sipping juice at the Tamara juice stand? To goggle some fresh meat (or flex your own well-earned biceps) check out one of the hundreds of outdoor fitness centers sprinkled around the White City, from its beaches to its parks to the lawns outside its community centers. Here you can jump on a rowing machine, firm up your triceps or just grab a seat on a bench and pretend to read a magazine while enjoying the sight of dozens of fit men and women doing lunges in the blazing sun.
9. The Gayzmers
Oy, gayzmer. For a city that marches to the beat of its own drummer, it’s no surprise that Tel Aviv is home to a very fine-tuned all-male gay a cappella group. This charming ensemble, which loves to raise the roof in rainbow-striped ties and perfect, unplugged harmony, performs a mashup-up of show tunes, classic pop songs and even Hebrew folk hits, all in the name of LGBT pride and community.
8. The weather
In Tel Aviv, the old adage is true: It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity that can make an average sunny day so incredibly sweaty. Legend has it that, because the city’s avenues were built parallel to the beach rather than perpendicular, the cool breezes coming in off of the gorgeous beaches are blocked by walls of buildings, therefore accounting for the ungodly stickiness this city knows so well. Regardless of the reason, when the weather starts to sizzle, there’s only one thing to do: strip down, pray you spent enough time working on your figure (see number 10), and embrace the sweaty, semi-naked reality that is summer here.
7. Michael Lucas
This Russian-born, New York-living gay porn kingpin calls Tel Aviv his ultimate playground, and it’s easy to see why. The creator of Men of Israel, the first-ever full length porno film featuring an all-Israeli cast, found his inspiration in the same manner as so many gay men before him: along the beaches and boulevards of Tel Aviv. Which brings us to our next category…
6. All the city’s a stage
From Rothschild to Ben-Gurion to the beachside promenade itself, Tel Aviv is simply packed with boulevards made as much for strolling as for staring. With public benches that double as works of art, plus coffee kiosks and juice stands and shaded bike lanes dotted with terminals for the city’s iconic green bikes, there is no better way to get around this flat, walkable city than via its specialized paved pedestrian walkways. And if you bump into a cute stranger along the way and make a new friend, well, all the better!
5. The Tel Aviv Municipality
Several years ago, as part of a push to cement Tel Aviv as a global destination for tourism, longtime Mayor Ron Huldai began an all-out marketing campaign to brand his city as the ultimate gay destination. Trumpeting the city’s beaches, friendly locals and warm, open attitude, he partnered with the city municipality as well as Israeli tourism officials to lure journalists and bloggers to Tel Aviv and show them that at its core, the White City was the ultimate rainbow.
It worked, and the city is now enjoying huge popularity among gay and straight tourists alike. During Pride Week, in addition to blanketing the city with rainbow flags and creating a packed calendar of gay-centric events, the Tel Aviv Municipality lights up its own building at Kikar Rabin in rainbow stripes and makes sure to remind all Tel Aviv residents that this is a place where any type of love is embraced.
Like Grindr? Yeah, we don’t either. Luckily Tel Aviv has its own semi-racy app for gays (and straights, too!) called Atraf. Available via both iTunes and Google Play, newbies to Tel Aviv can log on to the site and skim through profiles of thousands of locals, all of whom are, ahem, open to new experiences.
3. Places to hang your hat
Not all Tel Aviv hotels are created equal. Some, in fact, are not only gay-friendly but entirely gay-run, making them meccas of LGBT friendship and community with the added benefits of 300-count sheets and room service.
Whether you’re actually trying to catch a few zzz’s or just need a place to change from your swim trunks to your party gear, gay visitors swear by the Eden House near Shuk HaCarmel, run by a gay couple originally from Moscow and featuring a French-inspired bistro, Victorian-style baths in all of its quaint rooms and fun add-ons like market tours and culinary workshops.
They also flock to the uber-hip Brown TLV in Neve Tzedek, where Michael Lucas (#7) can often be found lounging at the bar and its gay owners can point you to dozens of gay bars, including the throbbing Shpagat and the drag mecca Evita, that crowd the surrounding blocks.
2. Hilton Beach
Only in Tel Aviv would a city’s designated gay beach run directly adjacent to its ultra-Orthodox separate beach. The simmering sands just beneath the Hilton Hotel are well known as the hangout of sun-seeking LGBTs who flock to its rainbow-painted pagodas to canoodle and crisp in the blazing sun. But if you want to goggle, take a peek over the wall running along the beach’s north end — right on the other side of the sandy stretch of sin lies the city’s segregated beach, where male and female bathers visit on alternating days so as to avoid being seen in swimwear by members of the opposite sex.
Should a matkot ball from one beach go flying over the wall and land on the other side, we have no idea what might happen.
1. Tel Aviv Pride Parade
There is no event more affirming of Tel Aviv’s unrestricted love and openness than its annual hedonistic fest, aka the Pride Parade. Routinely bringing thousands of revelers and supporters into its streets for music, dancing and general debauchery, the Pride Parade is cherry on top of a year’s worth of acceptance and refusal to judge. For a city where every day can feel like Gay Pride, the annual Pride Parade, this year scheduled for June 13, is always over the top, never boring, and certainly not to be missed.